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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Genus: Rubus (Bramble, Blackberry, Loganberry, Youngberry and Raspberry genus)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Rosids > Eurosid I > Order: Rosales > Family: Rosaceae

About 250 species, found worldwide but mainly in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. Species discrimination can be difficult in Rubus because of the extensive natural and artificial hybridization that has occurred. There are about eight species native to southern Africa, and nine species and one hybrid that are naturalised to the region. Since earliest times, people have collected berries from species of Rubus. They are eaten raw, cooked, or made into other products such as jam and juice. Berries have high levels of vitamins A, B1 and C. Dry leaves are used in herbal teas and both leaves and roots are used medicinally.

There are about 250 species of Rubus and they are found worldwide but mainly in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. There are 17 species recorded from southern Africa, some indigenous and others naturalised. 

Species are pioneers of open and disturbed habitats. Berries are eaten by birds which enables seeds to be dispersed widely. Plants are able to spread vegetatively by sending out sucker shoots, and rooting where branches (canes) contact the ground. Thorns along the branches provide a certain amount of protection from trampling, herbivory by mammals, and make it difficult for mammals to eat the fruit. With these sorts of properties it is no wonder that some Rubus species have become weeds. For instance, they are a big problem along roads, streams and other disturbed places in grasslands in the foothills of the Drakensberg (e.g. around Underberg) in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

The taxonomy of Rubus is very confused because of the extensive hybridization that occurs between wild species. In addition, new varieties have been developed through inter-species hybridization. Commercial species and varieties originate mainly from Eurasia and North America. Selection of domesticated varieties does not have a long history. Raspberry (Rubus idaeus) started being cultivated in England from the mid 1500's. New domesticated varieties of Rubus were being developed in North America from about the 1800's. Harvesting of wild species still occurs extensively, mainly by small scale commercial operations.

Species native to southern Africa

List from Plants of Southern Africa - an Online Checklist (SANBI).

Rubus apetalus

Rubus immixtus


Rubus intercurrens


Rubus longepedicellatus


Rubus ludwigii


Rubus pinnatus

Rubus rigidus

Rubus transvaaliensis


Species naturalised in southern Africa

List from Plants of Southern Africa - an Online Checklist (SANBI).

Rubus affinis


Rubus cuneifolius

A declared Category 1 invasive plant


Rubus flagellaris


Rubus fruticosus (European blackberry, Braam)

A declared Category 2 invasive plant in South Africa.


Rubus niveus (Mysore raspberry)

Native from India to Malaysia.

Rubus pascuus


Rubus phoenicolacius


Rubus rosifolius (Mauritius raspberry)

Native from India to Japan, and Sumatra.


Rubus trifoliolatus


Rubus x proteus (American bramble)

A declared Category 1 invasive plant.



  • Berries are eaten raw, cooked or used in making jam, juice, jelly, syrup, wine and liqueur. They are rich in:
    • vitamin A
    • vitamin B1
    • vitamin C
    • organic acids
    • sugars
    • pectin
  • Roots and leaves contain tannins and flavonoids. Dried leaves are made into tea and are used in herb tea blends. They are claimed to have various medicinal properties as do the roots which are dried and used in decoctions (i.e. extracts obtained through boiling). 


Rubus cuneifolius and Rubus x proteus (American bramble, Amerikaanse braam) are declared Category 1 invasive plants and Rubus fruticosus (European blackberry, Braam) is a declared Category 2 invasive plant in South Africa.



  • Brown, D. 2002. The Royal Horticultural Society New Encyclopedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London.

  • Glen, H.F. 2002. Cultivated Plants of Southern Africa. Jacana, Johannesburg.

  • Sauer, J.D. 1993. Historical geography of crop plants - a select roster. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.

Text by Hamish Robertson